Maria Ribeiro Correspondent
This week, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in celebrating the International Youth Day. The Day was commemorated this year under a global theme: “Youth Engagement for Global Action”.
United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres stated in his message for the occasion that the theme highlights the ways in which the voices and activism of young people are making a difference and moving the world closer to the values and vision of the United Nations Charter.
The United Nations Country Team in Zimbabwe together with the Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry and the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prof Paul Mavima and a number of young people represented under the Zimbabwe Youth For SDGs marked the day virtually on social and electronic media.
Having a virtual celebration allowed the event to comply with the Covid-19 prevention guideline and it was also an opportunity to reaching as many young people in Zimbabwe and beyond.
This year, the International Youth Day takes place in the context of new reality of Covid-19 and its impact on all of us and particularly we have seen here in Zimbabwe the impact that is having on people’s lives and livelihoods, but hopefully as well it is an opportunity to reflect for innovation and build back better.
Nevertheless, the extra burden to many of us, particularly on young people who have the burden of not being able to go to school to pursue their education and continue with their livelihoods cannot be overemphasised.
The International Youth Day was also celebrated within the context of the 75th anniversary of the UN Organisation.
As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the UN, we recognise that to keep the promise of this generation means investing far more in young people’s inclusion, participation, organisations and initiatives.
Young people are important because of what they can contribute and bring to their families, communities and country today.
The history of the UN is interwoven with peace, human rights, democracy and human development.
To build on the history of the UN, I would like to invite all young Zimbabweans to make your voices heard globally by visiting the web page http://www.UN75.
This is an invitation that the secretary-general has made to young people the world over to shape the future they want.
Zimbabwe’s young and resilient professionals are leaving their mark on the world.
When I was in Victoria Falls at the end of February this year for the sixth Africa Forum on Sustainable Development, Zimbabwean youth were indeed very much present and visible showcasing their innovations and entrepreneurial prowess and their commitment to green economy and development projects in their communities.
In addition, we have seen young Zimbabweans step up to the mark in response to Cyclone Idai, in mobilising and responding to Covid-19 and other areas as well.
That is why the UN here in Zimbabwe as elsewhere is supporting many young people to get involved in green economy, quality education, fighting climate change and engaging in new technologies.
As we reflect and celebrate the role of young people, I would like to share the following challenges to all young Zimbabweans that, firstly, this is the time to recommit to your role in your community and contribute towards building peace.
Secondly, it is also a time to protect and promote human rights.
That implies walking the talk and changing attitudes standing for what is right including promoting the rights of persons with disability.
Thirdly, it is high time for renewed commitment to climate action and to acting, working and living in a way which contributes towards a sustainable environment.
Going forward, to meet the above-mentioned challenges, the youth must take action that include:
Demand a high quality of education and the job-related skills that go with it. It is through this that you can grab hold of the economic opportunities available and be leaders and entrepreneurs in your own right.
Engage with a spirit of voluntarism, putting your ideas, time and energy into working towards the goals of human development and strive to help Zimbabwe achieve its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. This can’t be done without the participation of the youth in Zimbabwe.
And recognise and promote the role and contribution of girls and women in equal measure and with equal respect. A country that ignores or disrespects more than half of its population cannot move ahead and will not achieve a higher human development status. We know here in Zimbabwe the promotion of gender equality and addressing gender-based violence is a priority for many stakeholders and groups.
The true transformations of a country are tied to the values, dreams and aspirations of its young people, and a commitment to make it a better place for everyone, irrespective of age, colour, gender, religion or ethnic origin.
Stand by these principles for a peaceful and just Zimbabwe for generations to come.
Maria Ribeiro is the UN resident co-ordinator in Zimbabwe.